How to Use SBIR.gov to Search Topics and Awards – and Why
July 15th, 2015 by Rebecca Todd
All SBIR/STTR proposal applications need to respond to specific agency topics, so before writing a proposal, your team should conduct a search of closed topics and prior awards using SBIR.gov, the official website for Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer. The site was updated in May to offer new features and resources for prospective applicants.
Searching previous awards and research topics helps you learn about your federal agency “customer.”
Agencies that award SBIR grants tend to have broad topics that support the agencies’ goal of bringing technology to commercial market. Topics for agencies that award contracts are narrower in scope and well defined, since the agencies intend to be the initial customer.
The closed topic search reveals which agencies have historically demonstrated interest in particular fields, along with the solicitation year and agency points of contact. Grant agencies such as the National Science Foundation often repeat similar topics from one funding cycle to the next. Therefore, applicants can have confidence that a particular research topic of interest will likely reappear in the next solicitation for a grant agency. Companies often find multiple agencies with potential interest in their project areas.
For new applicants, a search of prior awards is critical for several reasons:
- SBIR/STTR awards are pre-patent, so they won’t necessarily show up in patent searches.
- If your project idea or a similar one has already been funded for Phases I and II, then it is not logical or wise to duplicate previously funded research efforts. However, sometimes a small business finds that a project has been funded that would complement – rather than duplicate – its proposed project. In this case, award details should be tracked and saved for later use in the proposal narrative to demonstrate knowledge of the state-of-the-art and differentiate the proposed technology or service from related innovations that have received program funding.
- Finally, the award search can help companies identify potential project partners. The project team is a key component that agency review panels consider when making award decisions. If a company doesn’t already have the highly qualified key personnel needed to perform the proposed scope of work in its entirety, partnering with others is strongly recommended. A previous SBIR-awarded company partner can also provide invaluable insights for preparing highly competitive proposal applications.
Create a spreadsheet where you can enter key findings for later reference.
SBIR.gov Closed Topic Search Instructions
Once you’re on the SBIR.gov home page, go to “Funding” on the navigation bar. From the dropdown menu, go below “Topics” and select “Closed.” On the Closed Topic Search page, you can enter in one or more keywords (use AND to connect multiple ones) that closely align with your project idea. Then, click the “Search” button to pull up the list of closed topics containing the selected keywords.
The SBIR.gov site uses color coding to identify the key dates of interest surrounding a given agency topic area. These dates include the solicitation release date, the date it opened to new proposals, the proposal due date, and the final close date. Each topic title is a clickable link that can be expanded to provide a detailed topic description, including a link to the associated solicitation and the topic number.
For closed topics, the key information you should track in your spreadsheet:
- Solicitation Year
- Keywords Used
- Topic Title
- Agency Program Manager
- Agency Contact Information
SBIR.gov Prior Award Search Instructions
From the SBIR.gov main page, you can search closed awards by looking under “Awards” then choosing “List.” On the Award List page, you can use keywords to search for SBIR/STTR awards funded in your subject area. The keyword search will pull up a listing of awards, each with clickable project titles that can be expanded for more information, such as the small business name, website, and address. The name of the principal investigator (PI) as well and his/her contact information will also be available in this expanded view. A detailed abstract of the funded project is located at the bottom of the award page.
Key information on award findings to track in a spreadsheet for later reference:
- Award Year
- Keywords Used
- Project Title
- Company Contact
- Agency Contact
- Award Type (Phase I, II, or both)
Outside SBIR.gov, you can do an online search for more information about the project PI, such as any recent scientific publications or talks given at conferences. Exploring the company’s website may also yield useful information regarding current product lines or the latest company news. This information should also be recorded in your spreadsheet.
After collecting and assessing information on closed topics and prior awards, prospective SBIR/STTR applicants can better determine how proposed projects fit in with the state-of-the-art. The data will inform the Phase I scope of work that will ultimately lead to development of new technology that addresses a significant, unmet market need.